1. Quarterback watch: Starter Cam Newton officially hasn't been ruled out, but all signs indicate he won't play. Newton didn't take snaps during team drills on Thursday and was limited on Wednesday as the team continues to evaluate his left ankle that underwent surgery in March. It's not a setback if Newton doesn't play. But Newton hasn't been turned loose to scramble or ad-lib with his running during camp and the team doesn't want to put him in a position to reinjure the ankle against a defense that sacked him six times in Week 2 last season. That the Panthers are breaking in a restructured line adds to the chance the quarterback could be vulnerable. Backup Derek Anderson took all the snaps with the first team in the final tune-up, another hint Newton will sit.
2. Battle at left tackle: One of the biggest questions facing the Panthers during the offseason has been the battle to replace retired left tackle Jordan Gross. Byron Bell and Nate Chandler both have worked there, but Bell will get the start. It appears it's his job to lose. Coach Ron Rivera says he wants to have a decision by the end of the second preseason game, so this is Bell's big moment. That the test comes against Buffalo is ironic in that Bell gave up 3.5 sacks to Bills defensive end Mario Williams last season. He's playing with a chip.
3. Starting over: This will be the first test under fire for a team that lost its top four receivers from last season. First-round draft pick Kelvin Benjamin has emerged as a true No. 1 against his own defense. Now the 6-foot-5, 240-pound phenom must prove it against an opponent. The second and third receiver spots are set with Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant, but there are a handful of receivers fighting for the final two or three positions. Brenton Bersin and Tavarres King appear to have an edge for the next two spots, and Kealoha Pilares might have the edge for a spot as the leader to return kickoffs. Toney Clemmons, Philly Brown and Marcus Lucas have had moments in practice where they have impressed, but they need to do it in game situations.